Sunday, December 30, 2007

Iguazu

"Poor Niagara"
-Eleanor Roosevelt

I have spent the last week with my family, touring around BA. It has been a glutinous week of tourism, and a nice way for me to say goodbye to BA by seeing the sights one last time. We came yesterday to the Iguazu Falls. They are stunning, and make Niagara looks like a bathtub. Yesterday, we arrived and visited La Garganta del Diablo (The Devil´s Throat). We took a little tourist train to get there. The Devil´s throat is a semi-circle of waterfalls that is practically indescribable. I decided that if I am ever going to commit suicide, I am tossing myself into the falls. You can get up real close via walkways, and you get soaked in the mist and spray.

Today, we woke up early. Not as early as we thought, since Argentina changed time. It added an hour, which is strange to do it now. Before it didn´t accept daylight savings time, so was an hour off Brazil and Uruguay. Strange time to do it. We went over to the park, and walked to different waterfalls. It was amazing. We hiked through little paths and above different waterfalls. We also saw coaties, racoon-like creatures. I will have to post my pics soon, because my words simply can´t describe the awe-inspiring falls. Such power and beauty captured in the falls is a rather humbling reminder of how small and powerless we really are.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Remembering Benazir Bhutto

I have been glued to the tv and internet following the news of Benazir Bhutto's assassination. She was a brave woman, who earned my respect for her courage and vision of what Pakistan could be. Having visited Pakistan, and with many friends there, I worry for about all that's going on. I don't have much more to offer than my sorrow and concern, so I will simply post an article by David Ignatius of the Washington Post.

I am also posting something that I originally posted when I visited the site where Indira Gandhi was assassinated. It was something that Indira Gandhi wrote, and I know that despite the tensions between their respective countries, Benazir Bhutto respected her.

"If I die a violent death as some fear and a few are plotting, I know the violence will be in the thought and the actions of the assassins, not in my dying- for no hate is deep enough to overshadow my love for my people and my country. No force is strong enough to divert me from my purpose and my endeavors to take the country forward."

New pics up

New pictures from Mendoza, Cordoba, Cristina's inauguration and my kiddies. Click the link above.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Feliz Navidad

So I was wondering what Jesus would think if he came back for Christmas? Would he wonder about all the cold weather decorations? The fellow was from Israel, there ain't a lot of snow this time of year, and there sure aren't reindeer. It's summer here and they still have winter decorations up. And what would he say about Santa? I'm pretty sure he would give a funny eye to the Christmas ham, as he was a good Jewish boy. If Jesus did have a yule tide log, it would probably be a palm tree. Anywho, Merry XMAS to all and to all a good night.

I have no one's christmas to ruin this year like I did last year on an island in Laos. Some girls were having an xmas party, and I invited everyone to the wrong bar. Jaja, leave it to the Jew to ruin xmas. I skipped their party too, for drinks with a Canadian chica and an irie reggae bar.

It is interesting, Christmas here feels a little subdued. Far less in your face than in the US. Or even in China, Vietnam and Laos. Funny how Communist, Buddhist countries made a bigger production than a Catholic one. And there are no BS newscasts about the "War against Christmas." I remember a few years ago, my Dad's office had a "Happy Holidays" sign on the front door, and someone scratched that out and wrote, "Just say Merry Christmas." Ummm, no. My Dad and his office partners are all Jewish, so deal with the Happy Holiday greeting and go kwanzaa yourself. As for me, I'm off to Chinatown with the fam to have the traditional Jewish christmas dinner.

My family has been here for a few days now, sans my sis. She couldn't get off work to come. We have been touring the city, and it has been a nice way to see all the sites one last time. It is also a very different way of seeing the city, as in cabs and tabs picked up. Like the Jeffersons, I moved today into their apartment. My brother and I had holed up in my place for a few days of fun. Bye-bye putas and trannies, I shall miss y'all so. I'm in a far different world these days, and I am enjoying it. Meanwhile, it is fun going to bars with the little bro. He is 18, so is legal here. It is great to send him to get drinks. I will have to wait a few more years to do that again.

PS: Back from the Jewish xmas festivities of Chinese food in Barrio Chino. We went to the one restaurant that was open, and of course happened upon another group of Jews. They were the only other foreigners, and as we were chatting we established our MOT status when I said, "and if I may be some presumptuous as to say chag sameyach." This brought laughs from the group who giggled about the common tradition. Meanwhile, it sounds like Christmas in Baghdad. At the stroke of midnight, fireworks started lighting up the night sky, and they haven't ceased. People just setting them off from the top of buildings, and roaring booms are echoing across the city. Reminds me a little of Lahore and Basant, without people shooting ak-47s in the air.

PPS: A video sent to me about Chinese food on Xmas by a fellow Jew named Mikey who was dining at the same restaurant.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

All news is local

So here in Argentina, the papers are running front page spreads about the corruption/bribe story involving Venezuala and Christina Fernandez. The news is calling it the lowest point of US-Argentine relations, and terming it a major crisis. Yet when I peruse the US papers, I can find only scant mention of the story. The link I posted above took a while to find, far from front page stuff.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Jesuitica

After my nap, I spent the morning wandering around the pleasant pedestrian streets and checking out the old churches. Cordoba was a Jesuit stronghold, and they founded the oldest university in the Americas. I had lunch of french bread, tomatoes, avocado and cheese on the roof of my hostel, under the blue and white mosiac dome of the old cathedral. I also visited an old Jesuit crypt that was unearthed a few years back, when the local phone company was doing some digging.

It was unbelievably hot in the afternoon, so I opted for some ice cream and a movie. I saw "The Assasination of Jesse James," by Robert Redford and staring Brad Pitt. It was a good flick, with great cinematography. I didnt do much else in Cordoba, save hanging out on the roof of the hostel with a French Basque girl, eating cherries and plums as we chatted and watched fireworks explode over the Cathedral´s domes and the booms echo off the surrounding buildings.

Figures I would get sick just a few days before my family comes. I have a small case of bronchitis and a cold. I woke up feeling ill, so I decided to head back early to recooperate before the family visit. I took a nice 11 hour bus back. As I was waiting for the bus, I chatted with a Spainard from Cordoba (the original) and we both agreed that the first Cordoba is better. I spent the bus napping, reading and thinking about my plans for January. My return to BA was heralded with fireworks overhead.

I had planned to go to Patagonia, but it is looking increasingly unlikely. It is expensive to travel in Patagonia, and I am afraid that my meager budget can´t support such a trip. I am looking into alternative plans, such as Boliva and Paraguay, both of which are cheaper options. Even with a few free places to stay in Patagonia, it is an expensive venture. I still have a little time to decide, and I am loathe to abandon my plans to trek to the end of the earth, play with penguins and sip scotch at the straits of Magellen; however I also need to be realistic about my financial situation and making my moneda last.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cordoba

A long night bus, spent in the back aisle, sleeping sprawled out on the floor. The joys of cheap travel. I arrived to Cordoba, Argentina´s second city and once-Jesuit stronghold. Off for a nap before touring the city.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Lujos

The luxury continues with a breakfast of muesli with fresh bananas and ripe peaches. Medialunas (croissants) and homemade bread with fresh honey, marmelade and dulce de leche. Coffee with cream. Fresh squeezed orange juice. Off to the thermal baths, la vida es un lujo.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Mendoza

Un regalo de vino, aceites, fernet, asado, andes. Life is perfect. La vida es llena.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The beginning of the end

I am starting to wind down my Argentine life, and doing so with considerable sadness. I have to come really enjoy my life here. It took a while, but things have gone dulce.

On Wednesday, I had my final day at the Baby Help center. The kiddies had prepared me a lovely going-away gift, it was very touching. I had my last day as Billy Madison, and I will miss my babies. I then met up with Miriam and Stephen, who were indeed able to land. I took them to La Americana- la reina de las empanadas, for the best empanadas in the city. I then took them on a hyper tour of BA. We walked through a protest down to the Casa Rosada, with Stephen joining in solidarity. Then we went up to Recoleta cemetary, and after for some ice cream. A quick tour of San Telmo, then we met Modi, the deputy chief of mission for the Israeli Embassy. Miriam had worked for him, and i met him earlier. We went back to meet his wife and kids (triplets!), and then went to a fantastic tango dinner show in La Boca. It was my first tourist tango show, and it was very nice.

Yesterday, I had my final English class with my students Alex and Hernan. I prepared a special class of slang and vulgarities. Repeat after me: badunkadunk; repeat after me: the shocker; repeat after me: fo´shizzle, my nizzle. We had a great last class over pizza and beers. They were great fun to teach, and i will miss them too. However, I left them in good hands, as I convinced a cute blond girl to take over the class. I´m not sure how much they will learn while starstruck.

After my last class, I met Jeremy and Vanessa at their apartment in Retiro. They mentioned it was a little small, jajaja. I gave them the lowdown on BA, and then went off to meet my friend Sofia from the Consulate.

I met Sofia at a ridiculous hotel that she is staying in- a long way from Consular accomodations. We went out for steak and malbec, and she was my sugar mama for the meal. Actually, thanks to her company for the lovely steak, this broke bohemian appreciates it. After, we went out for beers at a little kiosk bar and ended up hanging out with a bunch of Argentines. We were met by Jeremy and Vanessa, and babbled away, eating pan dulce (think fruitcake). After we left working girl Sofia, we headed on to the speak-easy Puerto Rojo for some fernandos (fernet y cola). The night ended with Jeremy and Vanessa snacking on some burgers, and then hopping a cab home. On the otherhand, I hopped a ride on the back of a garbage truck. The garbage workers thought it was hysterical, and it sure beat walking. Now, off to Mendoza to squish grapes.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hola to the readers

Hits this week from: France, U.K., Indonesia, Venezuela, Argentina, Laos, Cape Verde, Sweden, Belgium, Spain, Vietnam, Iceland, Turkey, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Italy, Thailand, as well as the good ol US of A (20 States) and Canada. A big hola to everyone.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Bienvinidos

A big Argentine welcome to Jeremy and Vanessa, who arrived today for some castillano lessons, and to my fellow Ex-Cons Miriam (and her husband Stephen) and Sofia. Miriam was the cultural affairs officer when I worked at the consulate, and Sofia was Latino affairs. Sofia and I had offices adjacent and used to munch chocolate-covered espresso beans and kibbitz in the afternoons. Sofia is here on work, she now slaves away at a computer company called BMC. Miriam and Stephen are here on vacation, although as it turns out they might not be able to make it. They are on a cruise, and were supposed to stop in Punte del Este, except the weather was too rough. So the ship went to Montevideo, except there was a boat wreck between a cruise liner and a shipping boat, which closed down the harbor. The ship lanes to BA are full right now, taking in the diverted ships and it is not clear if they will be able to dock tomorrow. Welcome to all.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Presidenta Cristina and the hijo de puta

I had the distinct pleasure tonight of calling Hugo Chavez a "hijo de puta." I will explain in due time. Today was the inauguration of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. I had my last class with one of my students Cristian, and after, I headed down to the inauguration festivities with a fellow English teacher named Sarah and her friend Nelly. Nelly happens to live in Friendship Heights, went to Maret and did Seeds of Peace- small world. We hung out in Plaza de Mayo and walked down Avenida de Mayo with all the political street theater taking place. People were marching with banners, banging drums and shooting fireworks. It was a little crazy. I stuck around to watch Presidenta Cristina´s speech at Congresso, but gave up and left before her victory march toward the Casa Rosada. I figured I wouldn´t get to see any scenes out of Evita, and I had laundry to do. Anyway, it was fun to watch.

Later tonight, I was hanging out with my friend Martina. She lives on Avenida Corrientes, which is like a BA Broadway. There were people demonstrating outside a theater next to her apartment. Turns out Hugo Chavez was here for the inauguration, and was at the theater, which is known for its leftist political theater. As I was leaving her apartment, ol´ Hurricane Hugo was outside, thronged by tv cameras and wellwishers. Realizing I would probably never get such an opportunity again, I climbed on a barricade, waited for a quiet moment and screamed at the top of my lungs "HIIIIJJJOOOO DE PUUUUTTTAAA!!!!" Very satisfying. I´m pretty sure the tv cameras picked it up. Puts a big smile on my face to have called Chavez such a lovely name on international tv.

New Pics up

The Boca game, Tigre and BA at night.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The “Shi’i Crescent”: Myth and Reality

The following paper is by Professor Moshe Ma´oz. I helped do research for it over the summer. It is published by the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution. The “Shi’i Crescent”: Myth and Reality

I received a nice little acknowledgement on page 4.

And on another tack, related to my previous Axis of Oil post, an interesting Post op-ed about Putin and another NYTimes one about Chavez. The first article is about why Russia supports him. The second is a grudging respect to Chavez for respecting the losing referendum. A final one by Vali Nasr about the top of the Iranian apex, Khameni.
A fascinating week of developments from the Axis of Oil.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Precisely, my dear Watson

I was running errands this morning, and was down in Retiro on my way to Palermo. As I was waiting for the bus, a girl was asking for directions. She was a foreigner, so I offered to help her. Her name was Zaida, she was from Pakistan, living in the US and was looking for the King Saud mosque in Palermo. We got to chatting, mostly about how awesome Pakistan is. Turns out she is here on the Watson Fellowship.

The Watson Fellowship was founded by Thomas Watson, who created some minor organization called IBM. The Fellowship is amazing. Basically it is a blank check to study whatever you want, and the only stipulation is that you can't spend it in the US. It is sick. She was studying Muslim communities in the Spanish-speaking world. She had been in Spain and Morocco, and the area that borders Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, where there is a hug Shi'ite community. I am not often jealous of people, but I am of her.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Flying colors

I took the second part of my Spanish exam today, the oral component. The written was yesterday. I passed with flying colors. Although I only did fair on the written section, which was expected because most of my studies and practice are based on speaking. I got only 6 out of 10 on the written, basically because I tried to use a certain past tense (pluscomperfecto)that we learned during the course, but actually didn´t need to use on the exam. However on the oral, I got a perfect 10. What can I say, I am a gabber. I mentioned the anecdote of how I had been practicing the subjunctive tense with my kiddies at the day care center (David, I ask that you stop; Ivana, I recommend that you eat; Children, I beg (supplicate) that you shut up).

Overall, I received an 8 or the equivalent of a "B." Sadly, that ends my perfect streak: from senior year through my econ classes at HCC, I had received straight "A´s". All streaks must come to an end, even DiMaggio ended his after 56 games. However he went on to hit in another 17 consecutive after his previous streak ended; so too I can start a new streak in Grad school.

Unfortunately, my roomie Emiko wasn´t as lucky. She failed the written portion, and was unable to take the oral exam. This was the second time she failed the exam and the course. It is unfortunate, because she speaks more Spanish than I do. To be sure, she has a harder transition in writing, coming from Japanese to Spanish. However, her class attendance was spotty and she didn´t do her homework. There is a lesson to be learned...

Is it Januká or Janucá

I came to find out that Hanukkah is a problematic spelling even in Spanish. I went last night for Hanukkah festivities in Palermo, in the Plaza de Uruguay for a huge Hanukkah party hosted by Chabad. There were close to 3000 people there, and a yiddish klezmer band. They lit the largest menorah in South America. I also got to eat chorizo, something i have been eying for a while but previously blocked from. Mmmm...kosher chorizo. I also ran into some Chabad fellows who I had previously met in the Plaza de Mayo. Nice fellows, I chatted with them about all the Chabad stops I had made around the world. Meanwhile, little kids ran up to us asking for Hanukkah gelt and shaking pesos. Of course, I replied that they should give me gelt ala India. Das rupies, only.

I also bought a menorah and lit the candles at my apartment, with my roomies watching on in curiosity. I explained the holiday (a group tried to kill us, we survived, let´s eat) and taught them how to play dreidal. I also did Hanukkah with my family back home. I likened the Maccabee miracle of the oil lasting for eight days when it should have been one to my own financial situation and the miracle I would need to make my kesef/plata/dinero last till March. In the spirit of the holiday, I respectfully requested a few barrels of oil for the Januká season.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Newsroundup

Three great op-eds today. Enjoy.

"When W.’s history is written, he will be seen as the rebellious teenager crashing the family station wagon into his father’s three most cherished spots — diplomacy, intelligence and the Gulf."
-Maureen Dowd

"U.S. politicians seem determined to appeal either to the most nativist extremes in their respective parties — or to tell voters that something Americans call “the tooth fairy” will make their energy, budget, educational and Social Security deficits painlessly disappear."
Tom Friedman

And one last one from my favorite Ha´aretz columnist

Big in Peoria

Gene Weingarten of the Post had a hysterical column about when he was picked up by a Peoria newspaper. Groucho Marx once said if an act can get play in Peoria, it can play mainstream America. So perhaps I should shoot for Kuala Lumpur. I wanted to give a big hi to the readership. Thanks to all the readers who tuned in from: Sweden, Thailand, Australia, Israel, the Emirates, Belgium, England, Bulgaria, Malaysia, Venezuela, France, India, Laos, and Spain. Not to mention Canada and ol EEUU (Estados Unidos).

I´m international :P I once saw a hit from Saudi. Hope he enjoyed it. A happy chakakhan to all my readers from far-flung places.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Festival de las luces

I spent the morning with my kiddies, they are so precious. At the daycare center, we had a visit from some donors including one couple from Houston. I recognized him, but couldn´t remember his name. We chatted for about about my former life in Houston. Seems like it was a lifetime ago.

After playtime, I stopped at a place called El Horno de Medio Oriente (The oven of the Middle East). It is an Arab bakery I spied near my apartment. I went last night, but it was closed. I did find a mosque next to it. I stopped in today for a lunch of shwarma, humus and pita and a turkish coffee. Sooo nice. After months of eating Argentine food, it was a welcome change. It was also the first time I had eaten humus in 3 months, something which my brother will find unbelievable because he laughs at me that I normally eat humus on everything.

In honor of my blast from the Houston past, I am posting an old Hanukkah greeting I wrote at the Consulate. It was never sent out, which caused me a bit of consternation at the time. Here it is a few years later.
Hanukkah 2004: Ma’oz Tsur

Rock of ages, let our song
Praise your saving power
You amid the raging foes
Were our sheltering tower


As we gather round the Hanukkah lights this year, we see a great change in Israel and the Middle East. For the first time in years, we enter this holiday season with a renewed sense of optimism. During the past year, two Israelis won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, while Israeli innovations took two of the top three prizes in the Wall Street Journal’s 2004 Technology Innovation Awards. Israel also shined golden at the Athens Olympics. The Israeli economy is back on track, and tourism is returning to its previously high levels. Our optimism is testament to the enduring Jewish faith.

Furious they assailed us
But your arm availed us
And your word
Broke their sword
When our own strength failed us


Over the year, Israel’s Anti-Terrorist Fence has saved countless lives from the plague of Palestinian suicide terrorism. Israel continues to build this life-saving measure, increasing the security for all its citizens. We continue to battle the terrorism on all fronts so that we may reach that day of genuine security.

Children of the wanderers
Whether free or fettered
Wake the echoes of the songs
Where you may be scattered


All the while, we continue to carry out the Zionist dream of building our homeland. Immigrants from all over the globe continue to flock to Israel; meanwhile those in the Diaspora see the Jewish state as a beacon of hope and a light unto the nations.

Yours the message cheering
That the time is nearing
Which will see all men free
Tyrants disappearing


Gone is Israel’s most intractable foe, Yasser Arafat. The man who directed campaigns of violence and terror against so many innocents has gone the way of so many of the enemies of Israel, becoming nothing more than a footnote in the pages of history.

Ma’oz Tsur, the Rock of Ages. As we light the Hanukkah candles this year, we remain cautiously optimistic for the coming days. We pray that this will be the year where we finally have a true partner for peace. Yet Jewish history has taught us to remain vigilant. Like the Macabbees who waged their long war against the forces of evil more than two millennia ago, we will remain faithful that our cause is just and we shall prevail.

Happy Hanukkah!

Monday, December 03, 2007

All Quiet on the Persian Front

Hmmm...an interesting National Intelligence Report was released arguing that Iran might not be working as fastidiously on their nuclear program as previously thought. A Persian paper tiger? Shades of Iraq´s WMDs? Perhaps the mullahs thought heavy water would get them in real hot water? Maybe Ahmadinejad is more bluster than previously thought.

"Trust, but verify," as Reagan said, and you don´t often see me quoting a Republican. At the very least, this should tone down the debate and possible march towards a bombing campaign. A good thing, given Iran´s ability to extract collateral damage. I am in a place that has experienced an Iranian blowback, and I have serious worries about what a real spat with Iran would unleash.

In the mouth of madness

It would have been a true tragedy if I had spent all these months in Argentina and not made it to a Boca game. Sunday was the last day of the season, and I had spent much of the last week unsuccesfully trying to find a ticket. I was assured by many people that there was no chance I would get a ticket, but I refused to give up hope. Luckily for me, the season was decided on Saturday as Lanus won the season, and Boca finished third, making Sunday´s Boca vs. Lanus game meaningless. Instead of a crush of people trying to get tickets to the match, it was a little less hectic. I went down early, and found a scalper to buy a ticket from. 50 pesos for a 14 peso ticket, which I gladly paid. Bless the free market.

My ticket was good for entrance in the middle of the Boca cheering section. It was still nuts. A wave of blue and yellow and deafening cheering. The stadium was filled with echoing chants, and the smell of ganja as people were freely smoking spliffs in the stands. The raucaus crowd was cheering and yelling the whole game, and I joined in. Again, aargh a 1-1 tie, which means that in the 2 games I went to, I didn´t see a single victory.

After the game, Lanus partied it up on half field. Apparently, they are a hapless club who finally and improbably won the championship. After the game ended, the Barrabravas (hooligans) squared off with the riot police. The police were on the field, and the barras were behind the fence, but that didn´t stop them from trying to toss crates over the fence and taunting and spitting at the police. It was not pretty. The police had a water canon aimed at the fans, ready to turn the place into Chicago ´68. Some of the more rowdy and obnoxious fans got maced when they got too close to the police. We were detained in the stadium for a good half hour, until the Lanus fans had cleared out, then we were finally allowed to leave. All-and-all, a real spectacle.

PS: Congratulations to Harry, who was accepted to College of Charleston. The soon-to-be freshman wants to study chemistry (see under: the Unibomber). Mazel tov, Harry Van Wilder. He also sent me a poem from "In Cold Blood," which he said reminded him of moi:

"Theres a race of men that don't fit in,
A race that cant stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain's crest;
Theirs is the curse of gypsy blood, and they don't know how to rest.
If they just went straight home they might go far;
They are the strong and brave and true;
But they're always tired of the things that are,
And they want the strange and new."

Tyger, Tyger Burning Bright

"Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?"
-William Blake

On Saturday, I went out to Tigre with Martina. Tigre is the city on the Paraña delta. It is named Tigre because...there were once jaguars there, and the people just assumed they were tigers. Tigre is a little like an Argentine Kemah (ala Houston). There were people out boating and walking or sleeping on banks of the delta, and there is an amusement park. It is a tranquil break from BA.

Later, we met up with a friend of hers, Gabi, who has a boat. He drove us to a little island on the delta for a party. We sat out on the beach, having drinks and listening to the DJ. Later, boats and boats of people came for the party. It looked to be a graduation party, although I am not sure if it was for highschool or college.

We stayed till the wee hours of the morn, and I was falling asleep and wanted to go. It was a little unnerving, because Gabi had a fair amount to drink and he was our only way back by boat. If I had been on land, I would not have gotten in a car with him, but would have taken a taxi home; unfortunately, being on an island, this was not an option. I could either swim (dangerous cause I swim like a rock), or find a piece of plywood and paddle myself back. The owner of the island told us not to worry about Gabi´s state, as he is "a son of the river." Thankfully, it ended okay, although I had a fair bit of trepidation. At 4am, there are no other boats out on the water, and it was a short distance on a wide river. Still a tad worrisome.

Sic Semper Tyrannis

Latin for "Thus always to tyrants." Chavez lost his referendum, Venezuela won. A good article about all of it by Roger Cohen of the NYTimes.

Meanwhile, Putin rolled in his "referendum." Poor Russia, an authoritarian frost is taking hold. As Solzhenitsyn wrote of Russia once, and remains sadly apt today. "We forget everything. What we remember is not what actually happened, not history, but merely the dotted line they have chosen to drive into our memory by incessant hammering."

Friday, November 30, 2007

Eye candy

Enjoy the pics from Uruguay

The Axis of Oil

With oil prices soaring, we have a new axis of problems. Venezuela, Russia and Iran have all prospered mightily with the price of oil at record heights. All have become more dictatorial and more assertive in global politics. Venezuela and Russia have elections of Sunday which look to cement control for years to come.

Perhaps Chavez have overstepped this time, as his push to be king has drawn blacklash. After being told to "shut up" by Spain's monarch, his people are out rallying to do the same. Protests in Caracas are against his brazen attempts to seat himself as the reigning monarch.

Putin is having an easier time. Bush looked into his eyes and saw his soul, Putin looked back and saw a tyro. A complete novice that the KGB colonel would walk over. Putin has stifled dissent and rolled back rights. Either the NYTimes or Washington Post wrote it best, when they asked, "if he is so popular, why does he feel the need to silence his opponents?" Russia is flexing it muscles again, in Eastern Europe and in Georgia. Russia is bullying its neighbors again, but in a different fashion. It cut off gas to Ukraine. It cyberattacked Estonia, hacking away at the most cybersaavy nations.

And then there is Iran. Given a strong hand in Iraq, and in Lebanese and Palestinian affairs, Iran has increased its influence in the region. Ahmenijad worries me. Forget Lolita, this is Reading Machiavelli in Tehran.

Three potential crises that the Bush administration has mishandled. Tehran, Moscow and Caracas are all far, far stronger than when W took over. Pursuits in Iraq not only took their eyes off al-Qaida, it also lost focus on three real problems. I didn't even mention North Korea or Pakistan. Kim Jong-il remained obstinate, and the Bush administration eventually came around. Meanwhile, Musharraf gave Bush a Putin-like look and played him. The next administration will come in with a full plate, I pray we choose the right leadership.

A PS: I didn't even get into the Middle East, I will let Fred Kaplan of Slate do it for me.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

New pics up

Random BA pics, photos from my world and the Buddhist Oeishiki ceremony. Uruguay to follow tomorrow. Click the title above.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Another day off

Last night was 2 peso (66cent) taco night at California Burrito, so I went with my class. Not the best tacos I have ever had, but still a nice change. Had my morning with the kiddies. I am the most popular kid in the class, it only took my a few decades. Now, I have yet another day off from school. Elections rather than a strike. It´s sunny and beautiful, and I am off to find tickets to the next Boca match.

PS: Rest in peace, Sean Taylor. Good night sweet prince, and may flights of cornerbacks wing you to your rest.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Back to BA

After the futbol match, I returned to the hostel and made dinner. I didn´t do much other than hangout with the Commonwealth and watch "Oh Brother, Where art thou?" I woke up this morning, and headed off to the bus station. An uneventful ride for 2.5 hours, and I slept a portion. From Colonia, I took the fast ferry back to BA, where I am now.

I previously wrote about Argentina being an experiment in creating an European outpost in South America; Uruguay is in some ways even more so. Nearly 90% of Uruguay is of European ancestry. There is nearly no Ameri-Indian population there. Interestingly, Uruguay has about 4% black population whose ancestors were brought as slaves. Argentina too once had a large black population, as high as 30%. Yet somehow this population disappeared, and has stumped anthropologists of where they went (Thanks Julep). Today there is a small portion of Africans in Argentina today, recently arrived and mostly from Senegal. They sell gold and silver on the street.

Regarding another previous post about the Botnia war, I received a correction. Botnia is the name of the papeleria that was constructed in Fray Bentos, Uruguay. Fray Bentos is located on the banks of the Rio Uruguay, across from the Argentine city Gualeguaychú. The effects of the pollution will be felt in two Argentine provinces, Paraguay and Uruguay (Thanks Tita). Here is an Argentine link about the papeleria, in English (Thanks Damián).

What the World Costs- Uruguay

14 Uruguayan pesos (64c): 500 ml of homemade red wine
20 pesos (91c): Donation entry to the Mueso Torres Garcia; a Pañarol team flag
25 pesos ($1.14): 6 museum entry pass in Colonia; banana split icecream cone; burger
35 pesos ($1.59): pint of Patricia beer
40 pesos ($1.82): salmon and avacado pate tapas in Montevideo
55 pesos ($2.50): glass of red wine and cover charge for guitar show at El Drugstore
75 pesos ($3.41): chivita (steak sandwich) in Colonia
80 pesos ($3.64): grocery bill for shakshouka (Israeli egg dish) and beer
100 pesos ($4.55): general admission to Nacional vs. Pañarol futbol match
110 pesos ($5); Big Mac combo meal at Montevideo bus station
120 pesos ($5.45): admission to Montevideo night club with 3/4L beer, girls free
161 pesos ($7.32): 2.5 hr bus ticket from Montevideo to Colonia
170 pesos ($7.73): grilled fish with boiled potatoes, bread and white wine in Colonia
190 pesos ($8.64): hostel in Colonia
270 pesos ($12.27): hostel in Montevideo, breakfast included
484 pesos ($22.22): slow ferry from BA to Colonia- 3 hours
695 pesos ($31.59): fast ferry from Colonia to BA- 1 hour

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Futbol and Gaza

I woke up late this morning and debated going back to BA, but decided to stick around. After a chivita (steak sandwich) for lunch, I returned to the hostel and was asked by the Commonwealth if I wanted to joing them for a futbol match. Umm...yeah (Harry and Dad, jealous much?). After a nap, we headed on to the futbol stadium. As we arrived, we were surrounded by a human wave of futbol supporters. Nacional vs. Pañarol. We walked in with the cheering Nacional supporters, who were rowdy. There were a few thugs tossing rocks at the opposition supporters, and people were cheering and shooting off roman candles. As we were approaching the stadium, I saw a true kamikaze raid. As the Nacional supporters were walking with a giant flag, one of the Pañarol supporters took a run into the flag. He was promptly dropped and stomped until police on horseback saved him. We got our tickets and went in. We were in the neutral section but more Pañarol supporters around us. It was an amazing sight. Probably 70,000 fans. Flags waving, banners and colors galore. Loud chanting and cheering. More Roman candles, clouds of colored smoke and confetti.

There was a game taking place, so we figured we were late. As the game was going on, a fight broke out that cleared both benches. The riot police stormed the field. The game was reduced to 8 against 7 after the red cards were handed out. Then suddenly, the game ended. Huh, the game was supposed to start at 5pm, not end. After a little confusion, we found out it was the development teams for the two clubs, and the actual game would be starting. When the teams took the field, the crowd went nuts. Whole clouds of red, white and blue (Nacional) and yellow and black (Pañarol), with waves of confetti. Meanwhile, the Pañarol fans were waving what looked like American flags, only with yellow and black stripes. It was a true sight that I can´t even begin to describe. The game was a good match, and yet again more fights broke out. The benches cleared and even a coach got a red card. The game was a true spectacle and I luved it. However, my only problem with futbol arose as it ended in a 1-1 tie.

After the match, the real chaos began. As we were walking back, some hooligans started fighting with the riot police. People started tossing stones at the cops, who retaliated with clubs. Then the mounted police showed up. Bedlam, total bedlam, and transpiring right in front of us. Hooligans tossing rocks and riot cops charging in and clubbing them. The guy from Northern Ireland said it felt just like home. We were stuck half a block down from it, because the riot was directly in our path. We waited a bit, then crossed the street to get away. The scuffles continued on, as we watched from the other side of the street. As things calmed down, we left. As we were leaving, some hooligans started tossing rocks through bus windows of the opposition team. Welcome to South American Futbol. Welcome to Gaza.

The Commonwealth Games

What looked like a calm night in Montevideo proved otherwise. I returned back to my hostel after wandering around a bit and found a game of Texas Hold´em going on with the hostelmates. After a little poker, I went out on the town with a gaggle of English, Scotish, Irish, Welsh, Canadian and New Zealanders. Off to an Irish pub with live music and a bag pipe. The Scot got on stage and sang the Flower of Scotland with the band. The debauchery moved on to a club, and since I spoke the best spanish, I was left in charge of talking our way in for free for the ladies. We went to a loud, thumping club till the wee hours of the morn. I´m not sure what time I left, but it was either really early or really late, depending on how your clock goes.

On my way back to the hostel, I bumped into a group of two teenage guys who were trying to look after their drunk, pilled-up girl friend. She was going nuts- screaming, yelling and running. They were trying to calm her down enough to get her in a taxi home, so I stuck around to help out. Shades of Heidi and my basement a decade ago. The girl was off, and her friends and I kept trying to calm her down. This went on for about half an hour on the pavement. Finally, she went nuts on too many times. Her friend gave up and clocked her a few times in the face, which brought over the homeless parking attendants who thought we were beating up some defenseless girl. I had to explain quickly that she was their friend and was in bad shape, while they dragged her into a taxi and sped off. I made it back, and went quickly to sleep. I was awoken this morning by an evil alarm clock below me. It woke everyone up, save the person whose alarm clock it was. It was right below my bed, so I was swinging my below at it from above, trying to end its vile ringing. Now, I am up and left debating if I stick around another day or head back to BA.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Sleepy Little Montevideo

I spent the day wandering around Montevideo. It is pretty, with its colonial architecture. It is also a sleepy little town, with all the stores closed all weekend. I asked some police if it was a holiday. No, they replied, it was the weekend. But, it´s Saturday I mentioned. They laughed, and said "this is Montevideo." Anywho, the city is pleasant. Reminds me a little of a mix between Budapest and Funky Kingston sans black people, but then again, everywhere reminds me of somewhere.

I wandered through the Plaza de Independencia, with its giant General Soandso on horseback. I walked through the old city, stopping at some museum for some famous Uruguyan artist who did cubist work. It was so memorable, I already forgot his name. I wandered through the old city, which is nice, and down to the jetty. On the rock jetty, there where old fisherman sitting out in the sun and casting their lures into the waves. Afterwards, as I was walking past a park, some kids booted a football (soccer) over the goal. I headed it and kicked it back to them, and they invited me to play. They were surprised when I told them I was an American, and even more surprised when I booted a goal past them.

After soccer, I wandered back into the old city and ordered a snack at a cafe. Or at least I thought it was a snack. Two tapas ended up being huge, and sufficed as a rather early dinner. Later I caught a sunset, which was very cool because the sun seemed to melt into the sea.

The Uruguyans are inveterate maté drinkers. They drink it more than the Argentines, or anyone else. Everyone carries their maté gourds and thermoses of hot water. You even see drivers with a thermos under their arm, with their neck crooked sipping the stuff; gives the dangers of drinking and driving a new meaning. As for Uruguay itself, the Uruguyans have an identity that is very much like the Canadians, ie fashioned on not being your big, over-bearing and louder neighbors. I´m not sure if there is anything else to do in Montevideo and might head back early. I will decide tomorrow.

The Botnian War

No, that is not a typo. There is a big spat at the moment here between Uruguay and Argentina over Botnia. Botnia is an area in Uruguay, on the border with Argentina. The problem began over a papeleria, a paper factory. A Finnish company (Damn the Finns, always messing things up) wanted to build a paper factory in the area. Rumor is that they approached Argentina first, but Argentina wouldn´t put up the necessary funds (ie bribes), so they built it in Uruguay. The environmental activists in Argentina went nuts over the prospect of a polluting paper mill sending its waste into their waters, so they began protesting and blocking the bridges to Uruguay. The mill opened a few weeks ago, to much protest and consternation on the Argentine side. Their were demonstrations outside the Uruguayan Embassy, and when some Uruguayan Ambassador dismissed the environmental concerns and said the smell was no more noxious than boiled cauliflower, the protesters began boiling vats and vats of cauliflower outside. The issue remains relatively unresolved, but probably will end up being a tempest in a boiling cauliflower pot, as the factory is built and online.

In other news, I arrived to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. I hoofed it some twenty blocks to a hostel, where I am currently located. The city seems nice, a little like BA but much more lowkey.

PS: Wishing a speedy recovery to my brother Harry for his bursitis surgery. Bursitis is a terrible affliction that poor Harry suffers from.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Apple of Ur-uguay

Its funnier when pronounced in Spanish. I had a lovely thankgiving at my classmate Katey´s apartment. Lotsa turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and gooseberry preserve. Sadly no pumpkin pie, but I will make do.

I have spent the whole Black Friday shopping at the mall. I went to JCrew and bought 5 pair of pants, then on to Abercrombie and Fitch for sweaters. I also picked up a new i-phone. I luv Black Friday and all the wonderful sales.

Back to reality. I woke up early this morning and headed to the ferry dock to catch a boat to Uruguay. The process to buy a ticket as confusing, and I was worried I wouldn´t make it. I got onin time, and then the boat didn´t depart for another 30 minutes. Argentine standard time. Sitting on the ferry, I thought back to other past ferry rides. A lovely trip form Morocco to Spain, and with it a a complete change in culture. A nice ride from Rio de Janeiro, with Sugaroaf mountain in the distance. A bumpy but beautiful float from Cape Town to Robben island, with the clouds clinging to Table Top Mountain. Ah, but I digress.

The ride was nice, I napped a while, and chatted with a girl from Spain named Tiki. She was going to Uruguay for a jugglers convention. A convention full of jugglers, too funny. I arrrived to the lovely city of Colonia del Sacremento. It is a antique cobble stone city with picture-eque alleyways. I found a nice hostel with an avocado tree with avocados the size of softballs, and went for lunch. I had a chivito, a steak sandwich, with fries and a Patricia beer. After I wandered around the city known as "La Manzana de Discordia." The city was founded in 1680 by Manuel Lobo, the governor of Rio de Janeiro. It became a hotly contested piece of real estate as Spain and Portugal battled over it. It became part of Spain in 1777, until Uruguay became independent. Uruguay itself was contested by Argentina and Brazil until the British came in and set it up as a republic and buffer between the two nations.

Once I was on a bus in Jordan, talking to an amiable Syrian fellow. He mentionedhe worked in Lebanon, and said Lebanon and Syria are like this- holding up two fingers crossed. It was indicitative on the Syrian feeling that Lebanon was part of their country. I immediately corrected him, taking my pointer finger on the opposite hands and holding them near but not together. Why I am telling this story is because it also relates to the Argentine feelings toward Uruguay. They consider the country to be a province of Argentina. Lebanon is not part of Syria, and Uruguay is not part of Argentina; pity those revanchists that think otherwise.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Dia de Pavo

Another Thanksgiving has come, and I am a brazilian miles away from home. 364 days of the year I can travel, today is the only day I am homesick. It is the only day I would trade in all my accumulated miles of the year to be home. What a difference a year makes. Last year I was dining on yak in Tibet, battling altitude sickness; this year in Buenos Aires, getting ready to feast with my class and other assorted Americans. I love the days that let you mark your time. Where were you today-on years past?

I can remember the Turkey Day parade going down the streets of Philadelphia. My grandfather´s wonderful cranberry sauce with a hint of citrus. My father carving the Turkey with the precision of a surgeon. Uncle Tommy´s sweet potatoes with marshmellows on top. The cranberry stuff that comes in a can, and maintains that can shape even after you pop it out. The whole family sitting around the dining room table, sharing the graces of the day.

I remember the year my Mom didn´t make mashed potatoes, and it caused an uproar. I made them this year for the feast. The recipe from Cesco, the restaurant where I slaved away a decade ago.

I have much to be thankful for this year. My year(s) have been nothing short of incredible. Continent-hopping, with the greatest of ease. I offer thanks to those who sheltered and fed me along my long journeys. I offer thanks for being able to wake up everyday in the lovely Argentine capital. Most especially, I offer my thanks for my health, and the health and well-being of my family and friends.

My thoughts this year are with those who I tutored over the summer for their US citizenship exams, all my students from far-away lands who are celebrating their first Thanksgiving as Americans. I remember quizing them about Thanksgiving and asking what their favorite foods were. I wish them all the best for their first Thanksgiving as citizens.

I will end this Thanksgiving cheer with two articles, One from the New York Times on Thanksgiving in Baghdad 2003 that I found to be poignant. The other from the Washington Post about being an Indian Muslim celebrating Thanksgiving. Happy Turkey Day to all, and to all a good night.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A-eshteru

I´m being serenaded with "On my own" from Les Misrables in Japanese. I have a day off from another strike. 4 strikes in four weeks. My solidarity holds firm. I´m off to a museum to enjoy the day.

A Look at Languages

This is an article I wrote for the newsletter of the company that I teach English for. I wanted to call it "A Cunning Linguist Looks at Languages," but figured that was a little too risqué. Instead, simply "A Look at Languages"

“And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.”
Genesis 11.6-7 (The Tower of Babel)

Perhaps one of the best parts of being a global nomad is the opportunity to come in contact with a multitude of different languages. In my studies and travels, I have managed to learn four languages, of which I am able to speak in varying degrees. Beyond English, I am able to converse in Spanish, Hebrew, Arabic and Czech, as well as a smattering of words and vulgarities in a variety of tongues.

Yet, I wouldn’t consider myself gifted in the art of linguistics; what has made me a good linguist is the lack of fear of making a fool of myself when trying to learn a new language. If I received a peso for each time I utterly made a fool of myself while trying to speak another language, I could easily afford to travel around the world many times over.

Recently, I was in Rosario, and met a group of Israelis who spoke no Spanish. Since I spoke Spanish and Hebrew, they decided I would be the perfect translator for all the girls they wanted to pick-up, who spoke only Spanish (Castillano, excuse me). I spent the evening trying to translate from Hebrew to Spanish, and vice-versa. Needless to say, it all became a mess. Amid my linguistic confusion, I ended up speaking Hebrew to the Argentines and Spanish to the Israelis.

As I have learned more languages, I have come to appreciate that letters have far different uses in different languages. Overtime, I have come to value the funny idiosyncrasies that letters can posses. While a “Y” in Argentine Spanish might sound like a “J,” in Czech, a “J” is pronounced like a “Y.” Meanwhile, the letter “X” varies from a “sh” sound in Chinese, to tongue click in Southern Africa when written “X!” The “R” gets trilled in Arabic and Spanish, rolled into a “gh” in French or practically swallowed in Hebrew; or there is the Czech version of an “Ř,” which is pronounced with a tongue roll- like the “ers” of Persian. A “C” that is lisped in Spain, takes on new form as it is pronounced as a “ts” in the Czech Republic. And then there is the fun of the guttural utterances that punctuate Hebrew and Arabic; nothing is more fun than sounding like you are about to hack up a lung while trying to make yourself understood.

The world of linguistic differences has literally left me lost. There are letters that are simply not pronounced, such as “Q” in Egypt. When I was in Cairo, and invariable lost while searching for the street “Qaseer al-Qainey,” people directed me every which way, even when in reality I was standing directly on “Aseer al-Ainey.”

Meanwhile, tonal Asian languages pose even more problems. Once I found myself waiting at a bus stop, outside of the city of Datong, a place about 6 hours east of Beijing. I was trying to catch a bus back into the city, and as one began to approach, I pointed to it and asked the man next to me “Datong?” He gave me a puzzled look that signified he didn’t understand. I tried a second time, “Dah-tong.” Still nothing. I tried a third and fourth time, with different tones, “Dah-TONG,” and “DAH-tong,” but was met with the same blank glare. Finally, in what sounded to me like the most exaggerated Chinese accent I could come up with, I pointed to the bus and asked, “DAAAAHHHH-TONGGGG?” “Oh, DAAAHHHH-TONGGG,” he said as he nodded his head in agreement. He then smiled and replied, “Why didn’t you say so?”

I won’t even broach the subject of the various nods, head-bobbles and hand signs that signify vastly different and often opposite things in different cultures.

Yet, what I have found to be a universal truth is that people deeply appreciate even the feeblest attempts at trying to speak their respective languages. In at least attempting, you are demonstrating your respect for their language, culture and heritage. While poorly accented words or outright mistakes might be greeted with a few chuckles, in reality it helps demonstrate the shared humanity that we all possess.

Friday, November 16, 2007

New Pics up

New pics from Tandil and assorted BA

It take two...

to tango. I went to my first tango class last night with my friend Martina. I didn´t so much learn to tango, as I slowly paced around the studio. It is hard to teach an old dog new tricks, but I think I can get it. After, we went to a milonga- a tango dance hall. It was amazing. Super elegant. It was mostly middle-aged people dancing tango, and was so interesting to watch. Everyone dances with their eyes closed to feel the music better. I was amazed no one bumped into each other. When the music stops, men sit on one side of the room, and the women sit on the other, waiting for someone to come over and invite them to dance. Something out of a junior high dance.

Otherwise, I had a threesome in the park. The other day I went back to my favorite park the other day, and the cat remembered me, and came up and curled up on my lap. I have named her cafe con leche. A second cat, cinnamon, joined in and also curled up on my lap. For a good half hour, I had two felines sleeping on my lap. So cute.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Morga

I went last night to see a concert of Morga music with my roommates Paula and Cheako. We went to La Boca, to a funky theater with all sorts of mannequins on the roof and painted people peering into urinal stalls in the bathroom. The concert was literally a trip. Imagine an oversized barbershop quartet gets slipped acid and ends up costumed at Carnaval, singing about mushrooms and masturbation in acapella. Too strange, too much fun.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Candombe, Murga and Nanny

I went out last night with a friend of a friend. I went with a Porteña Martina and a brazilian-turned-Argentine named Valeria to a club that had Candombe music. Candombe music is African music that ended up in Uruguay with the slave trade. It has a heavy percussion beat and is very fun to dance to. The club was a fun, little hippyish place, reeking of patchouli and ganja. We danced till real late, lots of fun. My weekend of Uruguayan music continues today, as I am headed off with the roomies to a Murga show. Murga music is acapella, but with a group of 14 men singing as three distinct voices. It is rather impressive.

I´m offering a shout-out for my grandmother. Yesterday was her 80th birthday, and the family had a big party for her. She is an amazing lady and a helluva fighter. She developed ovarian cancer my freshman year of college (not even her first bout), and has battled the disease to a standstill for more than 8 years. She has an indomitable will and irrepressible spirit. My Nanny has a quick mind, and a quicker tongue. She is the ultimate "call´em as you see em" figure, and watch out if you end up on her firing line. She is also a gentle, wonderful, kind and caring woman who loves life and truly appreciates every minute she has. Happy 80th Nanny! I promised that if she sticks around to 81, I would jump out of a cake. The sight of that may finally off her.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

El gato en el parque

I started the morning with a little apartment investigation for my friend Jeremy, who is coming down to Argentina in December. Nice place, a world away from where I live. After, I went to the Museo de artes decoritivas, a nice museum in Palermo. They had a statue of "the thinker," making BA the only city I have been to that has two in different places. The museum was lovely, really beautiful stuff.

After, I had a coffee and chocolate budin (pudding cake)in the outdoor cafe, as I sat in the sun. After, I headed on to a nice park I had walked past, but never been in. It was a great statue park, and I lounged on a bench. I am struggling to refrain from a childish remark, but a cat meandered my way and climbed up on my lap. This black cat, with a white underbelly, lives in the park. He climbed up and sat on my lap. He let me pet him, and purred at me. He then took a nap in my lap. He sat there till it started to rain. The clouds literally rolled in and poured down. I had to run in the rain with two porteñas under a shower. As quickly as the storm came in, it departed.

Friday, November 09, 2007

An epiphany on 9/11

I was sitting in the back of the synagogue, waiting to welcome the shabbat, but another figure found me first. As I was waiting for services to begin, the Muse came to me and offered me an epiphany. Suddenly, everything changed. Plans changed, I think for the best. I will enlighten you, dear readers, as I put in-motion these new plans. After that, my precious Muse had offered me the gift of an idea, and I had clarity. The synagogue radiated, under the glow of candelabras. The music was sweeter, and the prayers came from a deeper place. The shabbat bride was welcomed, and with her came enlightenment.

During the service, the Rabbi mentioned that today was the anniversary of "Kristallnacht," the Night of Broken Glass. Beginning today, Jewish shops and homes were ransacked in Nazi Germany and Austria. Over 8,000 shops were destroyed, and 1,600 synagogues were ransacked, with 300 set on fire. Jews were beaten to death, and thousands were deported to concentration camps. The pograms had begun in earnest.

I was planning to write on a different 9/11 anniversary today. On November 9, 1989 (9/11 as the rest of the world sets their dates) was the day the Berlin Wall came crashing down. I have the video of the NBC newscast from that fateful day, it was intense. With the Berlin Wall falling, so began the wave of freedom that swept across Europe and ended the Soviet Union. Some went as far as to label it "the End of History," as Fukyuma called it.

From 9/11 to our 9/11, the world enjoyed a period of relative peace and prosperity, granted there were plenty of other events that could force me to retract such statements (Algeria, Bosnia, Rwanda). On the whole, the world seemed to be progressing towards a new age of freedom and democracy. I´m not sure where we stand today. Russia has grown increasingly authoritarian under Putin. Iran still is under its theocratic regime, and is far stronger today than it has ever been. Chavez in Venezuela is trying to be the next Castro, and using his petrodollars to finance his ventures. Freedom is being stifled as oil prices reach new heights.

I´m not sure where I see the world these days. There are developments taking place that truly worry me. Not so much, because I don´t think we are any worse off than in any decade past. No one is "ducking and covering" under their desks; there is no gulag to which dissidents from the Eastern block are being sent; Iraq is a mess but the US isn´t nearly as unhinged as it was during the Vietnam war. As the old Chinese curse states, "may you live in interesting times."

These anniversaries help put into perspective where we stand, for my people, for the people of Europe and for the world. In some regards, we have never had it better. My people are no longer wanders- left at the mercy of tyrannical regimes, we have a state of our own. Europe is becoming one, and the European Union will soon stretch from the green fields of Ireland across to the border of Turkey. We have come a long way, yet still have so far to go.

My two centavos

I spent the night hanging out with my friend Daniel. He is sorta a Lewis of the South, a family friend who ended up becoming a friend. It´s nice having intelligent English conversation down here. We hit up a few pubs in Palermo, and I borrowed a book from his library. I began reading "Remains of the Day" under the driver´s blue light of the 12 bus on my way home.

I hate to be gloating about my political punditry, but I was calling a Huckabee bid for the Republican nominee before I left the States. It appears he is picking up steam, as noted in the following Washington Post and NYTimes article. Maybe I spent enough time down in Texas to have a pretty good idea of what conservatives run on. When it comes down to it, a southern preacher-turned-governor with solid conservative credentials will outlast an NY mayor or Mass governor in a Republican race. Should Huckabee continue his rise, and take the nominee, I predict he will pick McCain as his running mate to shore up his lack of foreign policy experience.

As for the Dems, I am still gung ho for Obama. He is my Kennedy. I like that he is refusing to go negative on Hillary or Edwards, as noted in this Washington Post article. Going negative will not get us beyond this current malaise, and we are still stuck in this poisoned political debate. At first, I was worried that Iowa would turn up for Edwards. A white, Southern populist running against a Black man and a woman gave me pause. I had been worried he would take Iowa, and run with it like Kerry did in 2004. However, the more Edwards battles with Clinton, I am also reminded of 2004, and how Dean the frontrunner scrapped with Gephardt, and Kerry and Edwards rose in Iowa. Let Edwards try to take down Hillary, then Obama can sit back and deliver his message for change and reconciliation.

With all that said, whoever wins the Democratic nominee has my support, although I would be rather unhappy with Edwards. His anti-free trade stance and populist protectionism bother me. Still far better than the other side. Rudy scares me, and I don´t like Romney. Romney is a pandering wishywashy flipflopper, he is so fake. Fred is the Wesley Clark of this election, a nice virtual candidacy, but no real substance. McCain seems to be back in the running. I respect him, but could never vote for him. And we´ll see if Huckabee continues his rise. My two centavos....

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Strike 3, I´m out

We were told yesterday by our teacher that there might be a strike today. Since I hadn´t received any word when I left my apartment this morning, I left for class. I arrived, and it was a ghost town. There was one other student, an English bloke named Matt. He is down here because of an Argentine girlfriend, and is buying a hostel. Fun, I want to own a hostel. Anywho, there was another strike. Viva el paro! Viva la revolucion!

On another note, I was down in San Telmo a few nights ago for a drink (my friend Brian says I sound like an alcoholic from my blog). I was having a pint in the Plaza Dorrego, an open square with lots of outdoor tables. There were lots of people having dinner and drinks. From the other end of the plaza, some hippy guy started playing some kind of horn. However, it sounded like a bleating dying duck. Everyone stopped their dinners and were stairing at him cause it was awful. I was cracking up. After I finished my drink (one!), I walked over to the "musician," and told him it was wonderful, that he should play more and play even louder. I scampered off with a mischievious grin. Nothing like ruining the evening of hundreds.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Troubled Sleep

No sooner did I finish the book by the same title, can I not. It was a book by Sartre. Brilliant and well written. "From the street the light glared up at him, dazzling white as a catastrophe."

Very poignant passages. All about France in the early stages of the nazi occupation. Another favorite:

"And those who words suddenly reveal to us the countenance of that France of sinfulness, which for a quarter of a century, has been forgetful of its duty to God. Why did we not produce enough? Because we did not work. And whence, my brothers, came this wave of idleness which has descended upon us as once locusts descended upon the land of Egpyt? Because we were a nation divided by internal quarrels. The workers, led by cynical agitators, had grown to detest their employers; the employers, blinded by selfishness, cared nothing about satisfying even the most legitimate of claims, our businessmen were eaten up with jealousy of our public functionaries, the functionaries lived like the parasite mistletoe upon the oak; our elected representatives in the Chamber, instead of discussing affairs of state calmly, with only the general interest in mind, spent their time in brawling and hurling mutual insults so that at times they actually came to blows. And what, my dear brothers was the cause of all this discord, this conflict of interests, of all this degradation of public conduct? The cause of it was that a sordid materialism had spread through the country like an epidemic. And what is materialism if not a tunring away from God."

Brilliant stuff. Alas, I was reminded by the end of the novel of my deep dislike for existentialism. All the fascinating stories of interesting characters were not remotely wrapped up. The story ended in a huff, when it could have easily gone on for another 150 pages. Ah, but that´s existentialism- life is neither great joy nor utter disappointment. It simply is. Frankly, I prefer other styles. While I appreciate Sartre, and his tremendous gifts, I´ll stick to those who take passions, passionate joy or pain, out of life. Now, to try to end my own troubled sleep. Dulces suenos.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Easy like Sunday Morning

A morning coffee with a viceroy and the King. The Liverpool four joined in. I expect to hear from their buddy in black, Mr. Cash. Maybe Willie too, if the power will see me through. Alas, my apple is cored, and hasn´t the power.

Picking up where I left off. I actually did stop in a place called Liverpool, an English pub of sorts. Since I was reading Sartre, I had a cafe Napolean. After, I walked around Tandil, and bought a maté. Maté is the national drink here. Actually the stuff is called Yerba (sh-j-erba), and the gord is called maté. Anyway I got a nice one with an Argentine coin from 1923 on it, and a bombilla (metal straw) with a nice fleur-de-lys. I went back to the hostel, sat on the roof and had maté under the vista of the grey domes. I waited patiently for apropriate Argentine dinner time. I figured 7:30 would be late enough and returned to my Asado place from the night before. That is a grand compliment for me to return to a restaurant. I have only done it twice in my travels. Unfortunately, I arrived too early, and nothing was ready. The place promised an empanada for my wait. They told me to come back in an hour, so I returned to the cervezaria with the Buenos Ayres Herald (yes, they spell it that way), and had a cream stout.

After a long hour, I returned to the Asado place. A little first about Argentine asado. They do it with the utmost love and care. Real asado is whole bodies of meat, hung up on large metal racks, and slowly cooking around a huge fire for hours. This place was a smoke pit. It was a giant oven of meat and coals. I had costillito- beef ribs cut right from the roasting beast. The place is less a restaurant, and more a take-out place, but I didn´t want it to get cold on my way back, so I ate it on a waiting bench. They supplied a fork and knife, I didn´t go full caveman. It was fantastic, succulent enough to make any Texan or South African take notice. A side salad and an empanada to boot. They asked if it was better than McDonalds, and I replied McDonalds was basura (garbage), to which they laughed.

The night was too cold to go out, the wind had picked up and it was far too cold to stay out in my thin shirt. I went back to the hostel, hung out with a musician and his friend, and read. I had an early night, and woke up this morning to go hiking. Yet it was far too cold, and the wind too heavy to go. The hostel gave me free breakfast (they usually charge for it). As a thanks, I gave the woman a Texas pin. As always, I had to explain that Texas wasn´t only Bush.

As I was walking back to the bus station, I passed a street that was named 11 de Septiembre. A sad reminder that so much of the world stood by us on 9/11. I was in Prague and I can remember how people came up to us and expressed their sorrow. Yet Bush has sadly squandered most of the goodwill that existed. I have seen it with my own eyes, in all my travels. People aren´t anti-American, they are anti-Bush. I read in the paper that Karen Hughes is departing now. She was the Bush cronie who was State Dept. undersecretary for Public Diplomacy. Helluva job Karen, glad to see how much good work you did. All of that old gang has gone home, maybe Bush should get the message and leave too. The only remainders are W, Vader and Condi. Basta ya. Enough already, go home. Enough of my tangent, I´m heading back to BA.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Tandilicious

Other than the fact that I was just viciously attacked by a tree, I am good. The tree managed to draw blood, but I think I will survive. Picking up yesterday from a much needed nap at the funky hostel I am now staying in, I went off to wander Tandil. I found a grey onion-domed church that looked like something like Sacre Couer or something out of Bulgaria. Sofia, and her sweet golden domes. I wandered through parks, with an orange soda whistling in the wind, and basked in the sun. I hung out at a cafe called "Maxim: el restobar ideal." Sure enough, as I had a banana and dulce de leche crepe and an irish coffee.

After a shabbat with the family on the phone, I grabbed some dinner at an asado joint. Asado is barbecue here, and I had a fantastic grilled chicken and salad. I ate it back at the hostel. Interestingly, while I was eating, complete strangers would wish me "bueno provecho," bon apettit. I found this funny, because strangers don´t often say "bless you" or "salud" after a sneeze, but they will wish a stranger to enjoy his meal.

After dinner, I headed over to a chilled-out brew pub. I drank stout, and met a musician named Emiliano from Tandil, who studies in Patagonia. Owing back to my days at Rock Bottom, I went for a taste test of the beers. Yum. From Kolsh to Imperial stout and all colors in between. My favorite was the cream stout. We hung out at the bar, then headed to the place I was the night before, the music place with the fitting name Antique.

At Antique, they recognized me from the night before, and Emiliano, who has his breakfast there everyday. They reserved us a table, for the music that was beginning in an hour, and we went back for another pint at the brewpub. We returned for some wonderful tango music, over scotch and soda.

Today, I woke up, had my room switched at the hostel cause they had a group coming in, and went wandering. I went to a hilly park overlooking a dyked river. The wind was whipping through the park and birds were suspended in mid-flight. It was kind of like a Memorex commercial. I went trekking through the park. I found a gnarled tree that had been hit by lighting, it looked like an elephant and its tough skin. I hiked my way up to the top, and got lost and ended up in Morocco. At least it seemed like that, cause I found a Moorish castle. I sat on the roof of castle, taking in the sun and resting with the Moor´s last sigh. After a while, I hiked down and had lunch at an asado place that was full with a wait, but I skipped the line and ate outside overlooking the lake. Brochettes of grilled beef and chicken, with the pancetta tossed to a stray dog. The dog was rather pleased that I keep kosher.

PS: Yesterday was a very important day. November 2nd is....the day of the Balfour Declaration. Yes, dear readers, it was the day His Majesty´s government announced that it looked favorably on the creation of a Jewish state in Mandatory Palestine. Some 90 years ago yesterday. Oh, and far more importantly...it was my Mom´s birthday. Feliz Cumpleanos, mi madre!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Tandil

Welcome November. There was literally a run on the banks yesterday. Perhaps cause it was the first of the month, I´m not sure. In any case, there were lines at all the ATMS in my neighborhood, all at least 7 deep. Meanwhile, other atms were out of cash. I spent the morning teaching, and the afternoon in a reversed role. After class, I headed to the bus station to get out of Buenos Aires.

I left Buenos Aires in search of some fresh air, so I hopped the bus to Tandil, a city 5 hours away in the Eastern Pampas. I arrived close to midnight, and found three things I was missing. First, stars. On the ride down, in my Marco Polo cruiser, I occupied the front seat, the shotgun view in the very front of the bus. The night sky was filled with brialliant stars, which I hadn´t seen for a while under the neon glow of Buenos Aires. I arrived to Tandil, and took my first deep breath of fresh air in a while. The air was crisp, with hints of honeysuckle and honeydew. Not smoggy, city air, but real fresh air. I enjoyed my walk to the hostel, maybe a little too much because I arrived at 12:15 and the hostel was shut. I rang the bell for a while, but no one came, so I wandered down cobblestone streets in search of alternative lodging. On my walk, I spied a park with benches, offering a last resort. I was able to find cheap accomodation at the Hotel Austral, with a room for 49pesos ($16).

I dropped off my stuff and found a great little bar with with a piano man and guitarista. They were joined by singers, some good, some really good. The eyes of lovely ladies in art nouveau posters staired down at me from red walls, as I drank scotch and soda. Interesting how I can find "it" outside of Buenos Aires, but not in it. There is an interesting juxtaposition that I love Argentina, but only like Buenos Aires. Maybe I will find "it" in BA.

Back to the show. Mama Cass took the stage and rocked it with some soulful croning. After the show ended, I talked with Mama Cass for a while, then headed back towards my hotel. I found a little bar next to my hotel, and went in for a last drink. Except it wasn´t. I accidentally ended up with a Budweiser, not recognizing what the bartender said. I met a ballerina and her effeminate friend, and joined them for a drink. We ended up going to a boliche (club), to dance and drink beer spiked with grenadine. That lasted until the wee hours of the morning, and when I left the club, the sky matched the colors of the Argentine flag.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

All Hallow´s Eve

The day began with playing with the kiddies. Lots of fun, as I pelted them with little plastic balls. It´s fun being the biggest kid in the class. I left the daycare center into the pouring rain. I went home and worked on some blogging stuff for the Obama campaign. Analyzing and summarizing the reactions in some main blogs for the campaign. After that I headed on to school, about an hour late.

After school, I headed home for a while, then on to Avenida de Mayo to a place called Cafe Tortoni, a luxuriously decadent coffee house. It comes straight out of Vienna, with art nouveau chandeliers and stained glass tiles. I had a cappuchino and the most wonderful flan on the planet. The best, blue ribbon first prize. I literally shaved the thing down with my spoon and ate it bite-by-bite. After that, I headed down to Palermo for some pizza.

On the subway ride over, as I was crossing through train stations, there was a fellow playing music in the crosshall. I took off my headphones, listened and dropped some change in his bag. As I went walking on, I really heard the music, stopped and went back to hear the rest of the song. The fellow played a beautiful song on his guitar and keyboard, and it filled the acoustic hall of the subte. The song ended and I went on my way down the neon white and blue tiled hall.

I almost forget it was halloween, it is unfortunately not a big holiday here. I only remembered because a little girl was walking with bright orange teeth in her mouth. I usually spend my halloween in my Moroccan garb. It is the only time I can wear a jallaba and not be looked at like an extra for the local Franciscan order. What seems like a lifetime ago, I was in Mexico now. For Dia de Los Muertos. The lovely Mexico City and the little island of Patzcuaro for the festivities. The city was filled with colored balloons and flowers to be placed on the graves of the departed. Also good flan. Seems like an eternity ago.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Paro II

I shaved this morning my burgeoning beard into a half goatee. The kiddies at the day care center played with it like I was a goat. After I went to class. The class was full with students but there was no teacher. Our teacher Gabriel is usually late, so we thought nothing of it. After 30 minutes, a Brazilian kid went to the office to see what was going on. A strike. Hastily called with no warning. Che Pablo debated joining in at the picket lines, but decided a beautiful day off was worth more than revolutionary glory. A warm afternoon was spent in Recoleta.

After an evening nap, I wandered off to find dinner. I walked down to Avenida de Mayo and stopped at a little cafe. I was the only one outside, but I was good luck for the restaurant and soon after the place filled. I drank porto seco on the house, and ate marinated little fishies as an appetizer. The dinner itself was fair. Cazuela de Merluza, which I have come to realize that I have no idea what it is. Merluza is hake, but cazuela comes different every time I order it.

Then, I literally lost my seat at the restaurant. I went to the bathroom for a sec, and came back and my table and drinks had been cleared and there was someone else siting in my place. I laughed about it with the fellow, and sat down to join him while I finished my drink and paid my bill. The guy was an Argentine from Patagonia. He was in BA because one of his six children was sick and at the hospital. We chatted for a while, then i paid my bill and headed on my way.

I find that I seem to be constantly looking for something that I can´t find in BA, whatever it may be. On a closing note, walking around the streets of Buenos Aires at night, I decided that if I had a million dollars (or pesos), I would fill up random trashbags on the street with money, just to watch the look on the faces of those who dig through the garbage each night for recyclables and cardboard. They work far harder than I do, and live far tougher lives. Life is far from fair.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Cristina and the Pink House

Yesterday was election day throughout Argentina. Since it was election day, there was a ban on alcohol sales all day. I tried to convince all the purveyors of libations that because it was election day, there was even more reason to drink. It appears Cristina has won pretty handily, escaping having to fight in a runoff. In a previous blog, I incorrectly stated that her husband Nestor was term-limited (thanks Daniel). He has only run one term, and is stepping down to give his wife a chance at the presidency. The idea is that they can together hold power longer if they alternate. There is also speculation that Nestor is sick, possibly with cancer, but that is just a rumor.

The election was a little strange because I couldn´t find anyone who actually supported Cristina. Everyone I spoke with said the election was a travesty, and there were no candidate they really supported. A friend who ultimately did vote for Cristina said that she did it only after great hesitation, and stared a long time at the ballot in the voting booth. She said that never in her life had she been so disappointed in the choices for the elections, and she felt Cristina was the best of a bad group.

I meanwhile did very little this weekend, save wandering around Puerto Madero on Saturday and visiting a nice little photo exhibit on Art Deco in the Pampas at the Borges Cultural Center. Strange place, cause the cultural center is in a shopping mall. Granted the shopping mall is covered with ornate sculptures and frescos on high ceilings, but I don´t often go to the mall to see art. I also went last night with my roommate Paula to see a cool jazz band. She was invited by the sax player, the group was a quartet with percussion, trumpet, sax and bass. Very cool show in an intimate little club. The group did a lot of experimental jazz, including an african style song played on pvc pipes. The sax player even played two saxes at once. A nice way to end a boring weekend.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

anti-semitic taxi

I was in a cab home tonight and I was talking to the driver about the elections tomorrow. An amiable Chilean fellow, as we spoke. As the discussion shifted to politics, and I mentioned I was from the U.S., he started nicely lecturing me about Allende and Pinochet in Chile. He then moved on to "the Americans and the Jews trying to take over the world." I listened politely until we got back to my apartment, paid the bill and told him I was a Jew. "Oh, my boss is a Jew," and other blah blah.

"Anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools"
-Augustus Bebel

Friday, October 26, 2007

Ladrones (thieves)

I started my day by marching down to the pizza place where I had bought two empanadas yesterday. I had bought a cheese and onion empananda and a capresse (mozzeralla and tomato). The first one was fine, but the second one was chock full of ham and I had to toss it. I explained to the manager what had happened, and he had the kitchen give me another one. I took one bite, and realized again I had gotten a ham. The manager yelled at the kitchen to know the difference between a calibrese (ham and cheese) and a calaprese.

I went to get my brazilian necklace fixed, which had broken earlier in the week and I was being plagued by a spell of bad luck. I took it to an artisans market, and they fixed it nicely. That´s when my luck really turned. At some point not long after, someone nicked my cell out of my bag. What a stroke of luck! I hated the damn thing, and didn´t want or need it. It was a second-hand phone, and I won´t miss it. I know I am a rare bird when I am reveling in something being stolen. But that does bring to light a more ominous fact that my bag is rather vulnerable. This is the second time something has been stolen out of the back pocket (first being a blank memory card in China: see Wake-up call). The value of the lost phone is well within the prescribed stupity tax. Anywho, back to being a luddite and happily without a cell.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Cristina, Colbert y Vos (you)

That is a play off a rather ubuiquitous advert here regarding the upcoming election. Since I wrote last week about the Stewart/Silverman ticket, Colbert has apparently thrown his hat in both rings. Given my almost punditry, I will take a stab at the upcoming Argentine elections. First, I have one peso for anyone who can name the current Argentine president. Okay, it´s Nestor Kirchner, of the Justicialista Party (Peronists). He has done a good job of righting Argentina´s ship in wake of the financial crisis, and bringing Argentina out of recession. There have been some concerns over Kirchner´s friendship with Chavez of Venezuela, especially given Chavez´s closeness with Iran. Yet Kirchner has been firm in that his dealings with Chavez only pertain to Latin American issues, and was recently critical of Iran at the UN. For the most part, Kirchner´s term has been positive, but "el pinguii (the penguin)" is term limited and cannot run again. The upcoming Argentine election is this week, and there are a brazilian parties running.

Leading in the polls is none-other-than Kirchner´s wife, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. She is a Senator and is running as his heir. Hillary of South America, as she is called, but interestingly, the personalities are a little switched. She is more personable and more Bill-ish in demeanor, while he is more of the Hillary style. It seems likely that she will win the upcoming election, as she has been running a good campaign and is leading in the polls. With that said, I can´t find anyone who really likes her (maybe a little Hillary-esque). Some of the same criticisms of Hillary´s campaign are made of Cristina. Tightly managed but coming across as a little staged.

Also running is Kirchner´s Minister of Economy, Roberto Lavagna. Lavagna helped pìlot Argentina through the financial crisis as well. He formed his own new party, and there has been talk of support for his candidacy from a number of groups including a wing of breakaway Peronists. I don´t think he will beat Cristina in the first round, but could surprise if it goes to a second round.

Meanwhile, I can count probably close to a dozen different Leftist parties running. Socialist Party, Socialist League, Communists, Workers Party, Communist-Humanist Party, Leftist Front, New Leftist Front, etc. The Civic Coalition is a group of Left parties that is running second in the polls, also with a woman running for president. It looks like the Left is too splintered to overtake Cristina, but that could change in a second round, but probably unlikely. Also running is Alberto Rodriguez-Saa, the brother of a president of Argentina who lasted only a week as president during the financial crisis.

I must say it is nice to be out of the US for the leadup to the election. I was getting sick of all the coverage, this far in advance. I found it to be obnoxious and contrived. I felt the election coverage in the US to be more pronounced and in-your-face than down here, with a major difference in election proximity.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Embajada de Israel

After my morning with the kiddies, I went to the Israeli Embassy to meet with Deputy Chief of Mission Modi Ephraim. After running the gauntlet of Israeli security, I finally got to meet Modi. Modi had served as Consul in Houston before I worked there. He is a great fellow, we reminisced about Houston and talked about the life here. He mentioned one story, which I think is acceptable to share.

With all the Israelis visiting the south of Argentina, the embassy wanted to set up an honorary consul in southern Argentina. They approached a fellow about it, and when they decided he was the right person for the job, he mentioned his own story. As a young man, he wanted to make aliyah. Yet his parents pitched a fit. He expected his mother to be in tears, but his father was as well. Realizing he couldn´t move to Israel because of his family, nor stay in his city because of his family, he went to southern Argentina. Now, he said with eyes welled up in tears, all these years later Israel had come to him.

Meeting with Modi made me miss the consular life I once had. The beauty of nostalgia, to paraphrase the "wear sunsceen" speech: fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

New Pics up

With more to follow. Click on the link: http://picasaweb.google.com/levantine18
Even more added today 10/22

Puerto Rico Night

I hung out at the hostel, while people were strumming the guitar and we drank wine. There was a Venezualan Jewish girl who worked at the hostel, I almost proposed on the spot. There was a special Puerto Rico night at the restaurant at the hostel, and we all went for it. I couldn´t eat anything, so the chef prepared a special meal for me. I turned in early and slept well. Now I am just getting ready to leave back for BA. Rosario is a very quaint city, with only one problem. Far too few traffic lights. I almost saw a dozen accidents. Imagine a busy intersection with no light and multiply it by half a city.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Time Notes


The day was perfect. I said goodbye to my brazilian and went off to the Museo de Bellas Artes. The museum had a nice collection but there was one exhibit I absolutely loved. It was called Time Notes, and it was a cabinet filled with what looked like money. Rather it was time notes. It was broken down into minutes, hours and years. It looked just like monetary units, and the stacks were wrapped with official looking notices that said ¨Lost Time Refund Office.¨ Meanwhile, there was a video of the artists trying to give or exchange time notes. People were confused when interacting with them, because it looked like a money exchange stand. "Can I give you time," the countergirl said. The ¨bills¨ were offered for your time or whatever you wanted to exchange. The bills looked like Euros and were broken down in respective form as such:
1 minute bill: "Time is the most valuable thing you can spend" -Theophastus

1 minute bill: "Money is a new form of slavery, and distinguishable from the old simply by the fact that it is impersonal, that there is no interaction between master and slave." -Leo Tolstoy

10 minute bill: "Each moment is a place you have never been"

10 minute bill: "In the turning of time back and forth the gaps are not enough to draw breath in. Too soon and you´ve gone too far; too late and you can´t catch up. -Philosophers of Huanin

30 minute bill: "Money is a special branch of communications that could be studfied with the tools of the linguist perhaps better than the tools of an economist." -Carl
Schindel

30 minute bill: "What does this difference between past and future come from? Why do we remember the past but not the future? -Stephen Hawking

60 minute bill: "Who can make the muddy water clear? Let it bw still and it will gradually come clear." -Lao Tse

60 minute bill: "Money: the signifier most destructive of all signification."

1 year bill: "He who keeps more than he needs is a thief" -Gandhi

1 year bill: "All that really belongs to us is time; even he who has nothing has time." - Baltasar Gracian

5 year bill: "The only reason for time is so that everything doesn´t happen at once" Einstein

5 year bill: "Money is dead labor that vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks." -Karl Marx

10 year bill: "Money is institutionalized mistrust." -Michael Hussey

10 year bill: "Time is the substance from which I am made. Time is a river which carries me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger that devours, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes, but I am the fire." Jorge Luis Borges

I spent a considerable amount of time at that exhibit. As the Phantom Tollbooth told Milo, "All time wasted shall be refunded."

After the museum, I walked through a nice park to another museum for Latin American art. Lots of pre-columbian pieces and works of Argentina´s history. I spent the rest of the day passing my time at various cafes on the main thoroughfare. Now I am back at the hostel, and a troupe of clowns (literally) just appeared. They were making rounds at the local hospitals. Too funny.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Hemmingway Afternoon

I returned to my hostel for a nap, but instead passed it as good ol´ Ernie would have. I met a nice old Argentine named Jose and we chatted for a while over some wine. The day took a turn as we were joined by a swiss guy named Tran (orig from Vietnam) with a guitar. The afternoon was spent sitting in a courtyard, playing music. Drums appeared and the wine flowed. Katambas (wine and coke) all around. We were joined by a Brazilian girl named Deborah, who continued my preference for Brazilians over Argentines.

The Rosary

Rosario is a lovely city, much more tranquil than BA. I wandered down the main thoroughfare, past a street jazz band playing a jazzy version of "Hava Negila." I had to stop for that one and listen. I was joined by what I assume to be a fellow MOT, an old lady who knew the music as well. I walked down to the Monumento de la Bandera, a large marble monument to the Argentine flag. I acsended the monument tower for a great view across the city and the river Paraña that it is situated on.

Following that, I went for lunch at Billy Lomito´s, an Argentine fast food joint. A lomito sandwich, the argentine version of a steak sandwich with a fried egg on top. Yum. Side of lipitor to boot. One thing is that the portions are much smaller here. A medium fries is the equivalent of a small in the states. Same with the drinks. Much healthier and far, far fewer Fatty McFat-Fats here.

However I do need to give America credit for one thing: its paper products. Napkins here, and in many other places, are no better than wax paper and are completely worthless. As for the toilet paper, it is often rough enough to rip you a new orifice. God Bless America for her soft toilet paper. Family, take note and bring a roll for me when you visit. I almost prefer the left-handed method of the Middle East and South Asia.

Cunning Linguistics Translation Services

Yesterday was spent navigating through languages, beginning first with an english teaching session. Immediately following, the teacher became the student as I went to Spanish class. As the professor was taking role, she mentioned that I wasn´t actually in the class and that I was really on the wait list. Puzzling, but she said since there were two people who didn´t show up to the class, I simply needed to go to the office to fix things. After class, I went to the office, where I found out that I wasn´t actually in the class and was merely on the wait list. Apparently even though I took the tests, I never did the necessary step of filling out a sign-up form. So I wasn´t really in the class, and although there were two spots open in the class, I was number 4 on the wait list. How this happened was pure bureaucratic bs. Even though I had been in the office twice and had taken the exams, nobody told me to fill out the form, so instead of being enrolled, I was put on the wait list. The office folks said that I should have seen some sign telling me I had to fill out the form, and basically it was my fault. I was furious. The teacher was being helpful, and she took my number and said she would call me if they could pull me off the waitlist. I left the school fuming, and refusing to speak spanish. I headed straight for the bus station to get the hell out of BA and on to Rosario. As I was waiting on the bus to leave some 2 hours later, I got a call from the teacher that there was room for me and I was back in the class.

The 4 hour ride to Rosario was nice if uneventful. The terrain reminded me a little of Texas or South Africa with its sprawling fields, cows and occasional windmill. Rosario is the birthplace of Che Guervera. It is the third largest city in Argentina, and has a reputation of being the Chicago of the Pampas. I arrived and hopped a bus to a hostel I found online- the Casona de Don Jaime. A very chill hostel with a reggae bar.

As I arrived, I heard some Israelis speaking at a table. The asked the waitress a question, and I gave them the answer in hebrew to their surprise. This begun my night as a cunning linguist. The group of six Israelis were backpacking around and spoke no spanish. It then became my job to translate for them with the Argentine girls. So I was going between Spanish and Hebrew. What a headache. I couldn´t keep my languages straight. I can do ok when I think in Hebrew or in Spanish, but having to work between the two was mind-spinning. Plus with drinks it became even worse. We met two girls and were trying to teach them to play poker. Basically, it just became a big cheers-fest of whiskey. We gave up on poker and played a more universal game- Uno (or taki or 123). All was lots of fun. The girls left with big smiles, and we met two more girls. Again I had to go back and forth explaining. Thankfully these girls spoke some english and could converse better with the Israelis. After we all went to a club/party called Bonita. Lots of young looking Argentines. I stuck around for a while, then felt old and went to bed. Now off to see the city.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Draft Stewart

My Mom gave me an idea. Skip all this Draft Gore biz, I prefer to Draft John Stewart for President. His running ate could be Sarah Silverman. His Sec of Defense, absolutley Colbert. No actually, Sec of State, cause sec of defense could only be Chuck Norris. Stewart will pull out of Iraq and invade Kazakhstan to make the world safe for Borat. On the way home, he will turn Gitmo into a Chucky Cheese. Stewart/Silverman ´08, it couldn´t hurt more than the last 8 years.

El Paro (the Strike)

"Well the first days are the hardest days, don´t you worry any more."
-"Uncle John´s band," Grateful Dead

I´ve spent the last two days being a human jungle gym for twelve 1.5 year olds, lotsa fun. I had my first day of Spanish class yesterday. I´m in class with my roomie Emiko. I practically slept through the first half of class, it was boring. Then the second half, we discussed embarrassing moments in languages. I had two good stories. One time when I was on a train in Transylvania, a nice old man bought me a beer. I didn´t know how to say cheers in Romanian, so I said it in German. Prost! The girl next to me quickly told me not to say it again, because in Romanian it means ¨dickhead.¨ Ooops. The other story was when I was in Rio, and I was talking with some girls on the street. I mentioned that I spoke ¨checka,¨ trying to say I spoke czech; rather in Brazilian portuguese, that means the female netherregions. The girls laughed mightily at that one.

The teacher told us that there wouldn´t be class today because of a teacher strike. Luv it. ¡Solidarity! After class, I had coffee with a cute polish girl from my class named Camilla and Emiko. I tried to polish my czech with the polish, but its like spanish and portuguese. After Camilla left, Emiko and I split a beer at another cafe and spoke with some German tourists. A prost worked fine with them. I didn´t do much last night, other than make dinner and have some wine with the roomies. They are all having problems with termites or ants, I´m not sure which. Since my room is above, I am not having any problems. I told them I wasn´t having problems because my room is soooo clean, which earned my immediate scorn.

After volunteering at the Baby Help Center today, I returned home and Emiko and I went for lunch at a restaurante tenedor-libre: a buffet. The food was good, a mix of argentine and chinese foods. The best part was desert. Dulce de leche and choc ice cream, and three types of flan, including chocolate flan. YUMMY.

After gorging ourselves and taking an overcrowded, unairconditioned subte, Emiko and I went to the MALBA- the modern art museum that is free today. The museum was much better with the proper perspective. The sun was playing tricks with reflections on the glass. I was sitting out in a outdoor section, looking at a spiral staircase that was reflecting against the glass like a DNA strand. I pointed it out to a cute Argentine named Josefina. We chatted and she gave me her email to catch up later for drinks. I´ll take real beauty over modern art anyday.

However, the MALBA had one other really interesting exhibit. It was two tvs in a dark corridor. They were on the ground, and you had to stand between them to see it. On the television were videos of fingers pushing into holes made by hands, but done in a manner that made it appear graphic and vulgar. A really amazing piece, because you feel sheepish watching. It creates a feeling of vulgarity in you, it is really interesting. I give modern art credit that it can make you have feelings that normal paintings cannot.

After the MALBA, Emiko and I hit up a café and I had a Cafe Irlandes (irish coffee). After we hung out in a park and listened to my ipod as we watched the clouds plays tricks with the early moon. Crowded bus home and a delicious steak I bought at the corner grocery for 50 cents. Now just planning my escape tomorrow to Rosario, a city about 5 hours away for the long weekend.